Legalize: Pot mostly mild
Thursday, a bill was introduced in the Legislature to legalize medical marijuana to ease the pain of cancer victims, the nausea of AIDS sufferers, the muscle spasms of multiple sclerosis patients, and the like. We hope it passes.
Backers of this compassionate plan got a boost from President Obama, who told The New Yorker that pot is no more dangerous than alcohol -- which is legal and available nearly everywhere.
With his usual common sense, Obama said pot-puffing is "a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy" -- adding that it's "not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my life." Since cigarettes are legal, why should pot be criminal?
Obama said he's disturbed because marijuana criminal laws throw a lopsided number of poor, black and Latino youths in jail. "Middle-class kids don't get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do," he said.
The president summed up our view precisely: As long as alcohol and tobacco are legal, it makes little sense to criminalize mild pot and jail smokers. The injustice is even worse if the puffers are sick people taking marijuana to reduce their misery.
So far, 20 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical pot, and we assume that more will join this humane trend as U.S. morality keeps evolving. Most Americans now favor legalization, polls find.
Remember, licensing medical pot sales provides extra government revenue. It's beneficial to gain public funds currently lost as the mild drug is sold only through the criminal black market.
We don't see why West Virginia shouldn't become the 21st legal state. We agree with Spencer physician Paul Clancy, of Spencer, who wrote that it's absurd to criminalize harmless pot, yet legalize painkiller pills that have given West Virginia the worst overdose death rate in America. Dr. Clancy said:
"The evidence in support of allowing medical marijuana is overwhelming. The benefits are great, and the drawbacks are minimal, if they exist at all. It is time for our state to stop spending its limited resources arresting and prosecuting seriously ill people who are using marijuana in the treatment of their conditions."
A December poll found that 56 percent of West Virginians now support medical pot, while only 34 percent oppose it. We agree with lobbyist Matt Simon, a West Virginia University graduate, who said: "No one deserves to be treated like a criminal for using marijuana to treat a serious medical condition."
Keep watching the 2014 Legislature to see what decision emerges.